11.THE HUMPBACKED MANITOU

Bokwewa and his brother lived in a cabin in the forest, far away from the rest of the world. They were both Manitous and could do many wonderful things. Bokwewa had the most gifts and knew all the secrets of the woods, but his body was deformed. The brother was very handsome. His body was very straight, and he could run and do many things that Bokwewa could not do. But he was not as wise as the humpbacked Manitou. Bokwewa used to tell his brother how to hunt and shoot and fish. Then the brother would go and get the food, and bring it back to the cabin. Bokwewa did not go out very much, of course.

One day the brother said, “Bokwewa, I am tired of living so quietly. Where are all the rest of the people? I am going away to find them and to get a wife.”

Bokwewa tried to persuade him not to go, but the brother was determined. He made ready for his journey, and departed. In a few days he returned, bringing a beautiful maiden with him. Bokwewa was very kind to his brother’s wife and she was good to him, so they became great friends. One day the brother was away hunting. Bokwewa was sitting by one side of the fire in the cabin; the wife was sitting on the other side. Suddenly the door was opened, and a strong, tall man entered. He seized the maiden and began to pull her to the door. She screamed, and tried to get away from him; but he held her fast. Bokwewa pulled and fought with all his strength. The tall man pushed him against the door and hurt his back. Then he dashed out with the maiden, and took her away with him.

When the brother returned, he found Bokwewa weeping with sorrow; and when he heard what had happened, he wept also. Bokwewa tried to comfort him, but the brother only lay on the bed, refusing to eat anything, and weeping bitterly. For several days he stayed there. At length he arose and said, “Bokwewa, I am going to the village where that mighty Manitou lives. He has stolen my wife.”

“Oh, do not go,” said Bokwewa, “for that village is many miles to the south. The people who live there are idle and only care about pleasure. They have many snares set by the roadside to catch you. Do not try to go there, or you will become like them and think only of pleasure.”

“I am not afraid of anything,” said the brother. “I must go.”

“Well, then,” said Bokwewa, “I shall tell you of two dangers that lie in the path. When you first start, you will find a grape-vine across your path. Do not eat any of its fruit, for it is poisonous. It will make you become very careless. Then, farther on you will come across something that looks like bear’s fat. It is clear, like jelly. Do not eat of it, for it is frogs’ eggs and will make you forget your home.”

The brother promised to remember these warnings, and set out for the village.

He had not gone very far when he noticed a grape-vine lying across the road. The grapes were beautiful and juicy, so he ate some. Some distance on he came to a jellylike mass, and he ate it. This was the frogs’ eggs, and he at once forgot his home and brother, and even his wife. He travelled on for two days, and towards evening came in sight of the large village. The people in it seemed to be having a good time. Some were dancing and singing, and many of the women were beating corn in golden dishes. When they saw him coming, they ran out, shouting, “Here comes Bokwewa’s brother to visit us.”

They welcomed him with joy, and led him into the village. In a short time he was beating corn with the women. That is the surest sign to the Indians that a warrior has lost his bravery.

Days and weeks went by, and still he did not try to find his wife, although she was living in that same village. Bokwewa waited at home, hoping each day that his brother would return. At length, when some years had gone by, he set out to find him. As he travelled along the same road, he passed the grape-vine and the frogs’ eggs. But they held no danger for him, as he did not taste them. When he came in sight of the village, he felt sorry for the people, who were wasting their lives in idle games and other pleasures. As he came closer, the people ran out, shouting, “Oh, Bokwewa has come to visit us! The good Bokwewa of whom we have heard so much! Welcome to our village!”

Bokwewa entered with them and found his brother. He was still beating corn with the women, and seemed very happy. Bokwewa tried to persuade him to come home, but he would not listen. He seemed content to stay there and do no work. This made Bokwewa very sorry, for he knew his brother was no longer a brave warrior. When evening came Bokwewa went down to the riverside. There he changed himself into one of those hair snakes sometimes seen swimming in water. After a while, the wife came down with a pitcher to get some water.

“Pick me up,” said the hair snake, “and leave me in your pitcher.”

The wife did as she was told, and took the pitcher to her cabin.

That night the Manitou who had stolen her wanted a drink. In the dark he did not see the snake in the water, so drank it. In a few minutes he was dead. Then Bokwewa returned to his former shape. He went again to his brother and tried to make him come home. But the brother refused. Bokwewa told him that these pleasures would not last forever, and his tears fell as he saw that his brother would not come. So he said goodbye to him and disappeared.

After Bokwewa had gone, the brother seemed to remember parts of his past life. He looked around and saw his wife at a little distance. At once he remembered everything, and going to her, he wept and begged her to forgive him and his neglect. She kissed him fondly, and then hand in hand they walked away from the treacherous land of pleasure, back to the cabin where Bokwewa waited for them.